This is a very interesting CD from the American (former ex-pat) singer Fay Victorher last recording made in Europe before returning to the United States last year. Her repertoire is very eclectic, ranging from standards to original tunes to covers of less-than-satisfactory 1960s-era rock tunes and one offering from the songbook of the highly overrated Randy Newman.
Indeed, it is a testament to Victor's musicianship that she is able to transform such egregiously bad material like the title track (a 1967 Kinks tune) and "People Are Strange" (an offering from the faux-profound Doors) into something resembling true music. Her musical alchemy resembles a great chef who is able to create filet mignon from Spam.
The highlight of the album is Victor's performance of "Laura." She presents the oft-recorded standard in a transcendentally slow adagio which conjures up aural memories of Stan Kenton's version. It is refreshing to hear a musician who knows the value (both emotional and musical) of slowness. In Victor's hands, David Raskin's haunting melody receives the apposite mixture of soulfulness and regret. To this end, she is supported by the solid bass of Jacko Schoonderwoerd and the tasteful trombone obbligato of Wolter Wierbos. Wierbos is also an excellent practictioner of the plunger mute, as witnessed on his solo on "People Are Strange."
A great deal of wit and irony inform the husky sensuality of Victor's voice. She is an impressive lyricist, and on this album she contributes words to Jackie McLean's "Keep It Busy, Keep It Moving" and Sonny Rollins' "Heading West." Victor turns Rollins' tune into her farewell to Europe: "Goodbye to life in Amsterdam/Hello to good old Uncle Sam." Those who have gone the ex-pat route will immediately understand where the singer is coming from.
Another tune to which Victor supplies lyrics is "Stealaway," co-authored with Jochem van Dijk. This dirge-like hymn to the pleasures (agonies?) of travel brims with irony, giving the impression of a deconstructive reading of "Let's Get Away From It All."
Victor also shows that she can swing with the best of them, which is particularly evident on the bluesy jazz waltz "There They Are" (which also features the singer's lyrics).
What is especially trenchant here is that each song occupies its own musical universe. Even though there are only five performers, the instrumentation and texture of each tune is different. In many ways, Victor and her fellow musicians are performing jazz chamber music. This is not just a quintet running through the same standards in one basic format. While this CD may be too cerebral for some and not to everyone's taste, Fay Victor is a gifted musician, possessed of flawless intonation, musical imagination, and inventive phrasingand for those reasons, this album deserves a first, a second, and a third listening.
Personnel: Fay Victor, vocals; Anton Goudsmit, guitar; Wolter Wierbos, trombone; Jacko Schoonderwoerd; Pieter Bast, drums, percussion